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Miss Clark

In November 1964, May Okon of the New York Sunday News visited a “tall, handsome blonde” named Anne Hone Rogers (Clark) to discuss her latest big winner, toy Poodle Ch. De Caplette Tar of Roblyn. The resulting story provides a look at one of the sport’s great handlers at the peak of her career. We make it available here for the first time anywhere in 51 years.

Three-year-old male toy poodle Ch. De Caplette Tar of Roblyn—Robbie, as he is more familiarly known around the kennel—is a small, black handful of classy canine who has won so many firsts at dog shows, he is rapidly becoming recognized as one of the top toy poodles on the blue ribbon–silver bowl circuit. Recently, his owners, sisters Olive and Anna Caplette, were offered $10,000 for Robbie, a price which tabs him a top dog in the financial and social strata of poodledom, comparable to the human being at the other end of the leash being firmly entrenched in both the Dun and Bradstreet hierarchy and the exclusive pages of the Social Register.

The sisters Caplette—Olive operates the Loving Care Kennels on Manhattan’s East Side and Anna the De Caplette Tiny Toys Kennels in California—turned down the five-figure offer for Robbie. “I’m not one to sneer at $10,000,” said Olive, “but Robbie stays with his handler Anne Hone Rogers. He’s going to have his chance to go as far as he can as a show dog.”

Handler Rogers, a tall, handsome blonde who recently wed a fellow dog handler, Jim Clark, is to poodle fanciers what Dr. Spock is to meticulous mothers. (There are some 900 professional handlers licensed by the American Kennel Club, about a third of them women.) Miss Rogers, who accommodates 75 to 100 dogs (mostly poodles) in her Surrey Kennels at Lake Mahopac, N.Y., works about 90 dog shows a year, handles an average of 18 to 20 canines at every show. Much sought after as a handler, she is offered hundreds of poodles every year by hopeful owners, but takes on only a few.

“I got Robbie when he was 2,” she said. “I liked him but I wasn’t thoroughly sold on him. Five weeks after his first show in May 1963, Robbie finished his championship, which means he collected a total of 15 points in AKC competition with other male toy poodles. Robbie was a nice little dog in the kennel and made a pretty picture when he walked in the ring. But a top show dog must have more than the physical qualifications—he or she must exude personality comparable to an actor’s star quality. In September 1963, at an outdoor show, on a rainy miserable day, Robbie suddenly looked up at me while I was putting him through his paces, as if he were saying, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do,’ and from that day there’s been no stopping him.”

To date, Robbie has taken 18 firsts—two best in shows and 16 in toy poodle groups, winning himself sizable space in the record books. Though neither his owners nor his handler will speak of it, surely there are dreams of the big show, Westminster, at Madison Square Garden, in Robbie’s little head. If so, he’s in good hands, for Miss Rogers was the handler of the only toy poodles ever to win best in show at Westminster—Ch. Wilber White Swan in 1956, and Ch. Cappoquin Little Sister in 1961.

Ask Miss Rogers why people show dogs and she’ll tell you, “Not to make money, as a general rule. It’s quite expensive to get involved with a top dog—a dog that’s out on the show circuit most of the time. It costs between $500 and $750 just to make a dog’s championship …. and it gets more expensive as you go along. Showing dogs is a great deal pride and a desire to improve the breed. I show dogs for two kinds of people: kennel accounts who want to evaluate their breeding program, and persons who are single-dog owners who have bought a good dog because they enjoy the shows and the companionship of people they meet on the circuit.

“However, I do have in my kennel a dog who does make money. His name is Ch. Summercourt Square Dancer of Fircot, he’s 8 years old and he was bought for $2,500. If at the time he was sold his future could have been foreseen, people would have lined up to pay $10,000 for him, because he has earned his owners more than $15,000 in stud fees.”—M.O.

PHOTO: Long Island, New York—At the Westbury Kennel Association show, one month to the day before this article was originally published, Anne Hone Rogers (Clark) handled Robbie to a Toy Group first under the esteemed all-rounder William Kendrick. (photo by William Brown)

Mrs. Clark was a longtime writer for the AKC Gazette. Here’s one of her classic columns, “Outstanding Show Dogs: Templates of Perfection.”